Marseille Travel Guide

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Marseille Travel Guide

Marseille Local History

For most of the long history of Marseilles, the town occupied the same fortified 70 hectares on the north side of the Old Port from its founding until 1660. There was a period in the 7th century, during barbarian invasions, when the area was reduced to a smaller fortified position, but it quickly regained its original size, which has been inhabited now for 26 centuries.

Early in the 11th century, trade had expanded and the city prospered. Marseilles became an independent republic in 1214, but remained independent only for 38 years. In 1252, Charles of Anjou took Marseilles under his rule. Marseilles became very prosperous during this period, reaping direct profits as well as ownership of a section of Jerusalem where it had its own church.

The Great Plague of the 18th century arrived in Marseilles in 1720, killing 100,000 people in Provence. Marseilles recovered quickly from the Great Plague. It took only a few years to restore the economic activity, as trade expanded to the West Indies and Latin America. By 1765, the population was back at its pre-1720 level, and growing constantly.

Marseille Attractions

Marseille Shopping

Your best bet is a trip to the Vieux Port and the streets surrounding it for a view of the folkloric objects that are on sale at one of the boutiques. All the souvenir shops along the pedestrian rue St Fereol, running perpendicular to La Canebiere, sell folkloric replicas of handcrafts from Old Provence, including the cream-colored or pale-green bars of the city's local soap, called savon de Marseille.

Marseille Parks & Gardens

Borely Park - This is a big and lovely park, it has winding waterways with ducks, swans and rowboats. There are large expanses of lawn, wide walkways and quiet little corners where narrow paths meander through trees and foliage. On the south side of the park is Chateau Borely, an imposing mansion built around 1770.

Longchamp - This beautiful old park is in walking distance of the city centre, spreads out over different levels on a low hill that's well forested. The main entrance to the park is at the Palais Longchamp. The top part of the park has pony rides for kids, and even a pony-drawn covered wagon. Concrete areas are used for roller-blading and skateboarding, and many benches and nice lawns make it a social gathering place.

Marseille Restaurants and Bars

Marseille Restaurants

Chez Fonfon - 140 rue du Vallon des Auffes. This is one of the legendary restaurants of Marseille, with a clientele of famous actors. The decor inspired by the furnishings and colors of the midsummer Provencal landscape. They serve a range of local dishes, specializing in seafood dishes. Main courses $24 - $54 and fixed-price menus $38 - $60.

Les Echevins - 44 rue Sainte. This restaurant occupies what was once a dorm for the prisoners, today it contains chandeliers, plush carpets, antiques, and massive rocks and thick beams. They serve a range of local french cuisine at reasonable prices. Provencal dishes include a succulent version of baked sea wolf prepared as simply as possible. Main courses $18 - $51 and fixed-price menus $38 - $54.

La Kahena - 2 rue de la Republique. This is one of the busiest and most-respected Tunisian restaurants in a city. It is a great place to go for a quick bite to eat and the prices are very reasonable. The menu lists 10 varieties of couscous, including versions with lamb; chicken; fish; the savory sausages known as merguez; and a full version that includes a little bit of each of those ingredients.

Marseille Bars & Clubs

Le Cadratin - 17 rue St-Saens, 1er. This is a friendly and cheap bar with 1960s music playing on the jukebox. You'll find a good mix of people, both foreign and local. It is a great place to relax, have a few drinks and meet some new people.

Cafe de la Plage - Located in the Escale Borely, this is Marseilles' best dance club. This is where the local 35-and-under crowd dances in an environment that's safer and healthier than many of the competitors. It is a great place to dance and party the whole night long.

Le Chocolat Theatre - 59 cours Julien. This a cabaret that presents sexy performers; broad humor; and occasional political satire, with a restaurant as well. The hours change weekly, so call in advance to find out, tel. 04-91-42-19-29.

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